Film Review: The Hours
Stephen Daldry directs Streep, Moore and Kidman. And he has excelled.
Three powerhouse performances from the leading actresses and a sterling supporting cast conspire with director Stephen Daldry to create what is to my mind one of the most accomplished movies of the moment. Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham, comes a movie that relies as much on the unsaid as the spoken word.
The film revolves around a single day in the life of three women, linked through the novel Mrs Dalloway. Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf fighting back insanity to uncover genius as she begins to write the novel in 1920s England, Julianne Moore plays Laura Brown a 1950's housewife stuck in a life she doesn't want, discovering her true self as she reads it and Meryl Streep plays Clarissa Vaughn a New Yorker living her life as if a modern day Mrs Dalloway, planning a party for her dying friend.
David Hare had a difficult task adapting the novel ?The Hours? which is complex and layered but rather than use voice over to express the characters? thoughts or labour the movie with lengthy monologues he instead relies on the skill of the actors in expressing their inner turmoil. The movement between the stories is initially a little sharp with shots cutting mid scene but it soon becomes fluid and it is through the more lengthy vignettes taken from each woman's day that the story unfolds and their acting talents are displayed.
Each character is perfectly drawn and it's difficult to single out any performance for ultimate praise. Nicole Kidman is unrecognizable as Virginia Woolf and not just because of that infamous prosthesis. Her expressions, mannerisms, gait and lowered voice all fuse to leave nothing of the famed long-legged redhead. She captures the essence of the troubled writer lost in the world of her novel while her husband Leonard, played by Stephen Dillane, tries to save her from herself. Their denouement on the train platform is one of the best scenes in the film. Virginia tells her husband that even though she found her sanity tested in London, Richmond the sleepy suburb of London, was not allowing her to live ?You cannot find peace by avoiding life?. This is the core of the movie as each woman tries to find a way to live her life.
Julianne Moore is on form as a housewife in post WWII America living her life as if looking on from the outside. The scenes with her young son (Jack Rovello) are excellent as they watch and wait trapped in their suburban abode, unsure exactly how to deal with one another. It's a difficult role and Julianne Moore along with her performance in "Far From Heaven" proves that this is indeed her time.
Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughn, a New York publicist living with Sally, her partner of 10 years, is unhappy and yearns for a life long gone. She is trying to hold herself together as she watches her friend and ex-lover Richard (a fine Ed Harris) dying of AIDS and throws herself into preparing a party for him while inside she is unravelling. In a bid to save her from inevitable heartache he tries to push her away. The sparks during their exchanges illuminate the screen and both embrace their characters completely giving power and depth to their performances.
The musical score by Phillip Glass is haunting and similar to the power of Michael Nyman's score for ?The Piano?. It flows through the film never overpowering but heightening the emotions.
Seldom a film evokes such a personal reaction. It's a movie that drew me into its fold making me unwilling to leave when the credits began to roll. It deals with love and loss and loneliness and at the heart of the movie is the universal struggle for self and ones place in the world. The film highlights that despite the different eras, this struggle is timeless.
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